The One About Religion–part one

Yeah, so I opened a can a worms while I was in a frustrated state and a bit of religion came spewing out and I got several people upset. So, let’s go back and cover it and if y’all hate me afterwards, well, so be it (or should I say amen? since it’s the same thing)

This is turning out longer than I expected, so here is part one.

Religion: The background
I was born in a family with a Catholic and a Protestant. This was and in some places still is, unthinkable. My sister was Christened in a Catholic Church. Since her first name was not a saint’s name, the preist Christened her with her middle name. That totally pissed off my parents and Catholic was out. I was born in Buffalo, and when I was 3 or 4, we moved to the edge of the county (about 40 minutes away, it’s a long and skinny county). My parents had been going to a United Church of Christ. Then they found an Episcopal Church in my town. It was protestant (sort of) and Catholic(sort of). For those who are aware of the schism in the Episcopal Church, my town boasted one of the more conservative churches. The Episcopal Church was also one of the smaller churches in town. Buffalo and the surrounding areas contain a large group of Catholics and my town had the requisite Catholic Church and school.

My parents wanted me to have communion, so I had to study with one of the pastors. I had to serve as an acolyte, and I had to learn all about being one with Christ. The pastor was not terribly thrilled with me. I asked many questions. I was explained that God was loving and gave his only son to save us. I asked how this God could be so loving if He destroyed towns and called for the murder of other people. I was explained that God changed. I asked why an omnipotent God would need to undergo change? Why would a sacrifice be needed? Would He have seen this coming? The pastor often referred me to the book of Job and how Job never wavered in his faith of God. I think the pastor was ready to pull out his hair when I asked how a God could be loving if He was willing to torment a worshipper just to prove a point? I was finally allowed to have communion. I was expecting things to make a difference. I thought if I was “ready” to accept the blood and flesh of Christ, then I must feel something when I stepped to the altar. I tasted cheap red wine out of a communal cup and ate a flat white wafer that didn’t even taste like bread. The spirit within me was nonplussed.

Shortly after this time, my parents had a falling out with the Episcopal Church. Or perhaps the pastor finally rubbed them the wrong way. We had been having a series of interns under our pastor and, well, they were all jerks as far as I could tell. My mom convinced my dad to go back to the UCC in Buffalo, the Church SHE grew up with. So off to another form of Christianity. Now, remember that my town was full of Catholics. I often slept over at friends’ homes and was expected to attend church the next day. I got a fairly accurate view of Catholicism from those visits to St. Paul’s in our town.

I found the UCC was a better fit for our family. The wine was served out of small cups and the bread was actually little cubes of bread! This was more like I had imagined the bread of Christ to be like. I still had no spiritual experience within the Church. It was calm, and I could reflect on the past week. I often found the fact that we spent so much time reflecting on what we did wrong and very little on HOW to be better. The sermons were all about the goodness of Jesus and how we need to be better because we were all evil little sinners. Occasionally a story from the Old Testament would sneak in and I would remember the Book of Job and how God would play with his underlings.

Often, I would stare at the patterns on the glass windows and wonder if there really was a God. Why was this God so egotistical that He needed everyone to be perfect little beings? Why didn’t the God make people perfect in the first place. Sure, the whole garden of Eden and the snake, but that means God gave people the free will to disobey and perfection was purely unattainable. I once asked one of the pastors about this and he tried to assure me that God wasn’t trying to make people perfect. Then why do we need to sin and ask for forgiveness all of the time? If we were made in God’s image, why are our souls not perfect too? Why do our bodies fail before a full life? Why did God need a fallen angel to create the evil side of nature? Again, my lack of going with the party line lead to me being reminded of being obedient to God and to Jesus. That Jesus loves us and we need to be good for everlasting life.

This lead to a whole other quandary. Everlasting life? Really? Wouldn’t that be, well, dull? The books show pudgy baby cherubim and winged robed people, floating on clouds, all the same, all just as dull. Where is the pleasure in that? If all of our needs are met, if all of our days are the same paradise, would it be interesting? I had trouble with the whole everlasting life. Did this mean that souls are constantly formed out of nothingness and they go to heaven and never return to the circle of life? Of course, you could also suffer in the pains of hell, but what kind of system is THAT? Live a good life the way one book tells you and your will allow your soul to go to a place that looks down on the world and everyone is the dressed the same, or suffer for all eternity for not doing the right thing? And the best part of this system is it’s a guess! What if you happened to follow a different form of Christianity. They all couldn’t be right. There are minor differences in all and what is not allowed in one is totally cool in another. If I believed in the WRONG Christianity, I would STILL go to suffer for all eternity. I couldn’t even tell if that falls in Dante’s 1st circle of hell.

Around the time I was trying to really understand the nature of God and Jesus, I ran into a problem. I found Darwin’s theory of evolution to make sense. It was logical, it was studied, it did not invoke a magical person to step in a create something out of nothing. It was supported by many, many, many forms of evidence. I liked it. It was tangible. Cool! Something that is making sense! Except, I discovered that my peers did not agree. I was debating between the chocolate milk that I loved and the regular milk that was better for me when one girl (and I can’t remember who it was) said “I heard that you believe in that stupid evolution thing”. Surprised, I turned and said “yes, why not? It makes sense, it has evidence backing it up. It’s great!” She spat at me!(ick!). “You’re going to burn in hell for not believing in Jesus. I didn’t come from a monkey!” Well color me shocked! I was rather taken aback and surprised when a few other people announced similar things. Fortunately, my real friends didn’t care, but I was really upset by this.

I spent 7th grade soul searching and trying to understand where God, Jesus and the Church fell in my life. It was about this time I picked up “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret” again. This time, I really could relate. I was just getting my period, I was getting older and I didn’t find religion to be reasonable in my life. I continued to try to understand religion, my place in it and life in general until college.

Thoughts of Figure Skating Parent

First, I’d like to say thank you for the comments on the last post and please forgive my quick and dirty comparison of religions. It was not meant to offend anyone, just my experiences.

Luna is my skater. She loves skating. ABSOLUTELY FRICKEN LOVES SKATING. She has passed the first 5 basic levels of the US Figure Skating Association. She is *almost* done with Basic 6 and she is half way through Basic 7-8. She has 2 coaches. They share teaching her, one is old school and tough and the other is warm and fuzzy. They both are great coaches and I am thrilled they are working with Luna.

My challenge is being the parent. To watch a 7 year old deal with the maturity that 10 year olds have trouble doing. She hasn’t finished Basic 6 for 2 skills that she is having trouble. These are important skills and she can DO them, but not to her Tuesday coach’s satisfaction. Luna thinks she needs to rush through the badges. I am trying to convince her not to rush, but to work on making her skills better. That’s hard for a 7 year old to comprehend.

I am trying to be calm and patient. She is frustrated with her Tuesday (the old school coach), but personally, we like the discipline that this coach brings. Luna will get to her place at her pace. I need to remind both of us that this isn’t a race. She forgets since her Friday coach lets her play with some of the jumps (she can do a Slochow, half flip, and is trying an Axel), but she needs to master the basics first.

The comment on my last post about Luna blowing off her coach was a misunderstanding. However, she is making her coach a card to remind herself how much her coach does for her.

I suck as a parent

Yep, you read that right. I suck as a parent.

In October, I was going through that breathing issues crap. At the same point, we were trying to get Luna into more ice skating lessons. She was planning to meet with a coach on Tuesday afternoons, after school. Suddenly, I realized we needed more than the school after care. I managed to hire an afterschool sitter/driver.

Our interview was the day after I had the anaphylatic reaction to contrast dye. I was very wiped out and resting on our couch. It was also the start of Snowtober. She was prompt, as her references indicated she would be, and she was a tad older than I expected. I would say she was in her late 50s. She was very polite and straight forward. C had raised 5 children, one who was premature and had learning disabilities, and was looking for this sort of part time work. She had firm expectations on the kids. I was concerned about her being too firm, so we tried to lay out a good routine.

From the start, both girls challenged her. There have been days when I find out that Soleil totally ignored her and left trash on the ground just to see what C would do. This is behavior that I don’t condone, but I think we may have contributed.

You see, I was raised in a Christian household. Dr. Jay was raised in a Jewish household. Okay, no big deal, right? Well, no. Christians are raised to believe. You follow the rules. You listen to authority, especially the big guy. You don’t question what the Bible teaches, you adapt your life to Christianity. Judaism? Well now, that is different. Some Jewish heroes question G-d. By questioning, you learn. Don’t follow blindly. Read and interpret the Torah. Take a Torah reading and 3 Jews and you have 3 different interpretations. Question, think, reason, fit. Very different.

We are raising our girls to think, question and reason. I am trying very hard to instill respect. Really really really. I was recently visiting another blogger. I made a comment about respectful arguing. The daughter looked at me and asked how you do that. So I explained that just because a rule is there by us, the parents, we do allow the girls to respectfully argue the rule. An example would be “No feet on the table”. Soleil’s arguments have been, “Mom, I am much more comfortable with putting my feet up when I eat” My argument back is “Soleil, feet pick up a ton of germs, some kids (LUNA’s) feet smell, and it is not socially acceptable to put your feet on the table.” I enforce the rule, but I explain it. The daughter stopped and thought about this. When her mom told her to not put her feet on the chair, the first reaction was a whine. Then the daughter stopped and said “Wait, I’m going to argue nicely. Mom, I like my feet on the chair. Can I stay this way?” Her mom laughed and said no because it could ruin the chair, but then we both praised her for not just whining, but instead thinking through the problem. I am not sure my friend appreciated my view, because authority starts to diminish with questioning.

We allow questioning. Our parents claim “everything is a negotiation.” Our response is “No, when they try to negotiate, the answer can be no, you do it our way.” I find many adults find questioning authority to be disrespectful. I don’t. I feel you can respectfully question authority. You need to question the request or order, not the person. When you get the explanation, you can’t answer with “that’s stupid” and you do need to stop and follow through if the person says so. We’ve done this multiple times with the girls. It’s hard and not consistent. It means that sometimes you change your mind and other times you need to say no.

I got an email from our sitter last night. The line that hurt was from her about the girls:

I am not viewed as an authority figure – at best, I am viewed as a peer – at worst, I am viewed as a servant.

Dr. Jay reminded me that C is quite old school and would assume any questioning of authority is an affront, but still, it hurt and my parenting feels questioned.

This is why I suck as a parent. It’s hard to raise our children to think and question, yet be respectful at the same time. I need to work on the respect more. Part of this is also school. We’ve had a rough year with Soleil in school with respecting her teacher. This is just further evidence that we need to stress respect.

How do you teach respect in your house?

When I grow up…

Do you remember those long summer days when you spent all of your time outside? I would traipse through the woods with my friend Amy and we would come up with tons of things to do. We were pre-teens and having fun with life. The whole world was ahead of us and we knew what we would do when we grew up. I would become a world famous astronomer. She was going to be a marine biologist. We would be friends forever and live the good life.

I will admit that the summer days are not as long in New England as they were in Western New York. The woods have a very different feel here than where I grew up. I used to know what my life would be, but now that I am 40, I don’t know any more.

I never really knew what the life of a scientist meant. I never knew how hard this field could be. I never realized how slanted it is against women. I never realized that most men question their own abilities in the sciences too. I didn’t know that money to pay for the field comes from taxpayers who like the pretty pictures and amazing news articles. They like watching Brian Cox and Phil Plait and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but they don’t like to spend money on science. Let’s do other things first.

As I approach mid-life (at least I am planning on living 90), I realize I am less sure of what I am going to do than I ever was. I am in the process of starting something new. I am trying to raise 2 strong girls, yet I read a story today that showed 100 women with and without their makeup and how “horrible” they looked. How do we accomplish all of these things?

I have mentioned on facebook, but not here, that I am preparing for a half-marathon. After all of my health issues in October, I am doing this. I am up to 7.2 miles. I need to get to 13.1 miles. That’s still pretty far. I know I might not complete the race, but I want to try. I am getting to a point where I understand that it is okay to fail. Really, truly, okay to fail. The fact that I can run for almost 2 hours straight is a huge statement.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Hi! Is anyone still out there?

I have been so busy, I haven’t written much lately.
I went to the AAS meeting in Austin Texas and had a blast, but more importantly, I got the RBT off the ground. I had many people interested in it and I HOPE it does take off. I am annoyed because the website didn’t get up in time, but hopefully soon.

In other news, I am trying to come up with some topics to write about. My head is full and I want to write, but I never seem to have time. Maybe time is a good thing to write about.

Onward and upward!